Reflection from my reading in Matt 6:1-18 the One Year Bible New Testament.
In this passage, Jesus gives us some really practical principles for prayer.
“But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6
Praying privately gives you an opportunity to be real with God. If you only pray with others, then you have to wonder how close your really are to God. Praying privately helps you focus on God.
Bonus point: Find a place for prayer
One very helpful thing for me is having a place I can go to pray. Personally, I pray best in nature, so I go to the lake or the hot tub; having a favorite chair can also help you get into prayer mode more easily. Also, I encourage you to turn off your phone and other electrical devices that can be a distraction.
Pray Simply & Succinctly
“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” Matthew 6:7
Long, drawn out King James style prayers are not more powerful. God wants you to simply tell him what you need and talk to him.
One acrostic that has helped many pray effectively is PRAY, based on the Lord’s Prayer found here.
Praise & Thanksgiving
“Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. ” Matthew 6:9
Starting with worship and thanksgiving reminds us of God’s power and sets the tone for our prayers. Praying a Psalm or singing a worship song can help with this.
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12
If we have unconfessed sin in our lives it will hinder our prayers. Confessing our sin to God and asking for his forgiveness clears up and restores our relationship with him.
“Give us this day our daily bread” Matthew 6:11
Ask God for what you need and want. God is our Father and is not upset when we ask him for things. He actually enjoys it, and it gives him great pleasure to answer our prayers. Nothing is too big or too small for him. We should also ask for God’s protection from temptation and evil for ourselves and our families.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6:13
Also, don’t forget to pray for the needs of others and the advancement of God’s kingdom. Pray for more laborers, pray for missionaries you know, pray for your pastor, and pray for the people in your life.
“Your kingdom come…” Matthew 6:10
Yield & Listen
“…your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10
Ending with a time of surrendering to God helps you live your day in dependence upon him. This is also a good time to quiet yourself and listen with an attitude of obedience that is open to whatever he wants to tell you.
Learning to pray the way Jesus taught us will help us enjoy prayer more and experience more answers to prayer!
If you like these posts share it on Facebook or tweet it with the hashtag #1YearwithJesus
The world has been interrupted by COVID19. The Olympics are postponed. All of us had things we were looking forward to canceled.
The apostle Paul knew all about having his plans blocked, including his visit to Rome. But in his letter to the Romans he told them,
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Rom 12:11–12
1. Stay Urgent – Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
It’s easy to lose motivation when you lose momentum, BUT for many this is an opportunity to assess what’s really driving your life.
Are you driven by the things God cares about? Is your fervor SPIRITUAL fervor?
People with an eagerness to serve find a way to add value to others even from a distance. Paul always found ways to advance the kingdom even from prison, he shared with guards, wrote letters, wrestled in prayer and welcomed visitors.
Let the fact that you have less opportunities in front of you lead you to the ones that really matter. Craig Groeschel says, “Limitation breed innovation.” In the Hope Quotient Ray Johnstone says,
The leader’s most important job is to stay encouraged. – Ray Johnstone
When you lose your fire, you lose your followers. All of us, leaders or not need to stay spiritually urgent in our mission to serve and spread the gospel for the sake of our families, friends and our own souls.
2. Stay Joyful – …be joyful in hope…
You fight for joy by fighting for hope. The good news for followers of Jesus is we have an unshakable hope. In uncertain times we have certain hope.
The best way to fuel you hope is to feed on God’s Word! Paul said,
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. Rom 15:4
Endurance springs from being encouraged by the stories of those who went before us. If God didn’t fail them, He won’t fail us.
God’s past provision points us to his future promise.
Looking back with humility, leads us to look forward with Hope. Learning from God’s past faithfulness, assures us of God’s future provision. With God there’s always hope.
As Sam said to Frodo in The Two Towers,
It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something. Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam? Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo…and it’s worth fighting for.
The Bible is full of stories of people who had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t, because they had and an unshakable hope that this present darkness is but a shadow and will eventually be dispelled by God’s great light. This hope leads to…
3. Stay Patient – …patient in affliction…
Your ability to be patient is directly proportional to your hope in God’s promises.
Patience is NOT the resignation that things will always be this way, it’s the ability to deal with the troubles of today looking forward to the day they will go away.
For some reason, I enjoy disaster movies, but living through one is not the same. At first, the new reality comes with the excitement of new possibilities, but slowly the restrictions start to take their toll and you start to realize this is not an extended spring break. And without patience we won’t weather the storm.
If your plans have been blocked, ultimately God has allowed it to be blocked, God’s got other plans for you during this season. And part of that plan is to grow your patience. James said,
For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:3–4 NLT
God is using your problems today to grow your patience, so let it grow!
4. Stay Prayerful – …faithful in prayer
It’s amazing how easy it is for us to fill up our time with anything but prayer. One leader says the reason prayer is so hard for us is…
“Nothing about prayer appeals to our flesh.”
Many of us are literally stuck in our homes. If you are not carving out time to pray now, when will you?
The word faithful here means, “to continue to do something with intense effort.”
I want to challenge you to use this opportunity to take your prayer life to “a whole’nother level.” I’ve rarely met someone who is content with their prayer life! Most Christians, even the strongest among us, usually have a lot more room to grow in prayer.
I’ve personally been seeking to step up my game in the last year or so. Having lists I pray for everyday including my family, the individuals in my church, my discipleship group, and the Joshua Project unreached people group of the day and the country of the day in Operation World.
If you don’t have a plan, get one. I use the PRAY acrostic (Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield) based on elements from the model of the “Lord’s Prayer” that Jesus taught us. For me I have been setting a timer so that I can dedicate time to prayer alone. Even if you need to start with just 5 mins a day, 5mins is better than no mins.
What is your next step for growing in your prayer life?
Let’s review Paul’s passionate plea to the Romans:
- Never Stop Serving Urgently
- Never Stop Hoping Joyfully
- Never Stop Waiting Patiently
- Never Stop Praying Faithfully
As Gandalf wisely told Frodo in the Fellowship of the Ring,
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
You didn’t choose for your plans to get blocked, but they did. What will you do now?
The inclination to isolate is more tempting now than ever. But our faith was never meant to be kept to ourselves.
The best way to stay encouraged is to stay connected. Paul longed to experience this with the Romans.
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you
that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:11–12
Paul needed encouragement too! Your leaders need encouragement, maybe more than most. Don’t assume just because of their position that they are immune to discouragement. Leader, if you are normally pouring out, don’t be afraid to receive encouragement also.
There is a type of encouragement that can only come from community. As amazing as Paul’s letters were (good enough to be Scripture), he still wished to actually be with them.
As many churches and communities go online, don’t let mere receiving encouragement be a substitute for real interaction. Even if community needs to be digital, you can still make sure it’s mutual.
So many people are struggling with fear, anxiety and worry right now. Who can you encourage? Also, who can encourage you? Get around people who will strengthen you. Paul said this to Philemon,
I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. Philemon 6
Unshared faith is unfulfilled faith. You can’t experience all God has for you on your own. You need to be sharing it with others to experience all the benefits found in Christ!
Who can you share your faith with today?
For several years John Allan Chau had been dreaming of preaching the gospel to the people of North Sentinel Island.
The Indian government has made it illegal for anyone to visit the island in an attempt to protect the people. But John believed that since Jesus commanded us to go to all nations (Matt 28:18-20), Christ’s authority is greater than any government’s. So after getting training (we don’t know how good it was) from a sending organization (All Nations) he felt it was time to go and hired some local fishermen to take him to the island secretly.
When he arrived his first interaction was tense, he yelled out “My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you”, but they didn’t understand. The result was getting chased off the island. He was shot with an arrow which apparently hit his Bible. After making it to safety he wrote this in his journal,
“Well, I’ve been shot by the Sentinelese… directly into my Bible which I was holding… Father, forgive him and any of the people on this island who try to kill me…
If you want me to get actually shot or even killed with an arrow then so be it. I think I could be more useful alive though… ‘I don’t want to die! Would it be wiser to leave and let someone else continue? No. I don’t think so. I still could make it back to the US somehow as it almost seems like certain death to stay here. God,
I don’t want to die. WHO WILL TAKE MY PLACE IF I DO? OH GOD I miss my parents…”
Clearly he did not have death wish, he loved life. He reminds me of myself when I was 26. His personal motto was: “Make the most of every good opportunity today because you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
He didn’t want to die, but he didn’t want the Sentinelese to die without Christ more.
He knew it was risky to go, but he wondered who else would go reach those people if he didn’t. He cared more out their eternal life than his earthly life.
So John wrote this note to his parents,
“You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people.
Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed. Rather please live you lives in obedience to whatever he has called you to and I’ll see you again when you pass through the veil.
This is not a pointless thing – the eternal lives of this tribe is at hand and I can’t wait to see them around the throne of God worshiping in their own language as Revelations 7:9-10 states. I love you all and I pray none of you love anything in this world more than Jesus Christ.’
Soli Deo gloria.”
The next day he went to the island and was shot to death with arrows. After reading his story I was inspired by his heart. It reminds me of the martyrs in Revelation who were described this way.
And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Revelation 12:11
My twin brother Paul posted this story on twitter connected to the quote by Jim Elliot. Jim Elliot was a Christian missionary who was stabbed to death by spears by the people he was seeking to reach, and famously said,
“He is no fool who gives what he can not keep to gain what he can not lose.” – Jim Elliot
The response to that twitter post was crazy! It got a lot of comments, most passionate and many very hostile! Many commented saying, John’s strategy was probably not the best. I agree! He could have brought someone with him. In the Bible, we almost always see people going as a team.
We don’t know what his long term strategy was, and his original strategy seemed flawed to just yell something out in an unintelligible language. Perhaps he should have left and went back to figure out a better way.
My point this morning is not to over-analyze his method or even ask if he should have gone when he did and how he did. I don’t know all the facts about his story.
But I do know Jesus has called us to go to all nations, and he was trying to obey!
I think the best way to honor John’s death is to celebrate his heart and willingness to go, but also learn from what happened so we can improve our future efforts to reach the un-reached in the best way possible.
Others argued the tribe was fine on their own and shouldn’t be disturbed or risk being diseased. Which makes sense, if Heaven and Hell were not real, but the Bible is clear that they are. Others compared his efforts to colonialism, which I don’t see.
Other comments fit the “troll” category, mocking his death, and saying that if Jesus was God why couldn’t He save him. (Similar to what people said to Jesus on the cross, Matt 27:42)
Even posting about it put my brother and I in the cross hairs of criticism in a small way.
And while many people were reasonable, others we just hurtful and insulting.
I believe we need more people willing to suffer and even die in order to reach the un-reached like John even if he attempted to do it in an unwise way.
According to JoshuaProject.net there are over 3 Billion people in un-reached people groups the world!
The reason many of these places are un-reached is because they are hard places! All the easy places are taken! So we must be willing to suffer in order to get the good news to them! Paul wrote,
“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness.” Colossians 1:24–25
What was lacking in the suffering of Christ? We know that Christ’s suffering was a sufficient sacrifice for all our sins. Nothing needs to be added to it!
Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:18
Jesus left his home in heaven, to bring us home to God. Jesus never sinned, so He could die for sin. Jesus suffered for our sins temporarily, so we don’t have to suffer eternally. Jesus was raised to life, so we could be raised to life with Him! His death paid the penalty for ALL of the sins of ALL people who come to him.
Then how does OUR suffering fill up “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions?”
In his classic sermon Doing Missions When Dying is Gain, John Piper tells this story,
He said there was once an evangelist in India who trudged on foot to various villages preaching the gospel. He was a simple man with no education, who loved Jesus with all his heart, and was ready to lay down his life. He came to a village that didn’t have the gospel. It was late in the day and he was very tired. But he went into the village and lifted his voice and shared the gospel with those gathered in the square. They mocked him, derided him, and drove him out of town. And he was so tired — with no emotional resources left — that he lay down under a tree, utterly discouraged. He went to sleep not knowing if he would ever wake up. They might come kill him, for all he knows.
Suddenly, just after dusk, he is startled and woke up. The whole town seemed to be around him looking at him. He thought he would probably die. One of the big men in the village said, “We came out to see what kind of man you are, and when we saw your blistered feet we knew you were a holy man. We want you to tell us why you were willing to get blistered feet to come talk to us.” So he preached the gospel and, according to J. Oswald Sanders, the whole village believed. I think that’s what Paul means by “I complete in my sufferings what is lacking in the afflictions of Jesus.”
Some people will only be reached on the beautiful blistered feet of people willing to suffer for Christ. Tertullian said,
“The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.” – Tertullian
What is lacking in Christ’s afflictions, is the people He has redeemed that He has commissioned us to reach. In order for the good news to spread to all nations, God’s people must be willing to suffer.
Are you willing in to suffer so someone else can experience salvation? Jesus made great promises to those willing to go,
“I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.” Mark 10:29–30
My family has experienced this promise first hand. My parents have started 8 churches and growing up we moved every few years. The result is that all four of my brothers love and serve Jesus, and God HAS blessed our family in numerous other ways.
Jesus promises that whatever you sacrifice for the sake of the gospel, you get back 100 times. Also notice that persecution is part of the package!
One of the most famous missionaries ever was David Livingstone who spent his life ministering in the hardest places in Africa. He said this,
“Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.” – David Livingstone
Livingston concluded that everything he gave up to follow Jesus, was not a sacrifice in the ultimate sense. Yes, he made many earthly sacrifices, but in light of eternity “he never made a sacrifice.”
Not everyone is called to do what John Chau did, but we all must play our role in helping reach the un-reached even if that means sacrifice and suffering.
Right now, in God’s presence, John Chau could say with David Livingstone, I never made a sacrifice!
It started as a half joke that one of my staff members, Josh, made in a talk. “There is a book called “An Unhurried Life” that changed my life. Well, the title changed life, because I’ve been too hurried to read it!”
That became a joke among our staff and students. Any time someone was late to a meeting, we gave them a hard time, saying, “So you’re just being unhurried, huh?” But an even funnier thing happened in the culture of our group. We actually began to hurry less! Just being aware of hurry sickness really has impacted my life. I found Alan Fadling’s encouragement to be true, “Hurry rushes toward the destination and fails to enjoy the journey” and that, “hurry squeezes the life out of the present moment.”
I saw difference unhurry was making in our team so much I actually slowed down enough to buy the book! I even sat down in a chair to speed-read it! Just kidding, I read at a normal pace. As I digested the pages, I was simultaneously comforted and convicted.
Jesus himself modeled the unhurried life. He invites us to walk with him rather than run for him.
Alan shared, “I’ve also learned that “making things happen” isn’t as helpful as learning to respond with courage to whatever God is doing. He makes things happen, and I would be wise to choose to work with him. My hurry is what often makes the yoke of life and ministry heavier than Jesus means it to be.”
Have I been busy working FOR God or have I been working WITH God?
It’s far to easy for me to seek to fulfill the COMMISSION of Jesus, make disciples of all nations, with out COMMUNION with Jesus, even though he promised to be with us!
Fadling asked a powerful question for ministry leaders, “Do our conversations about ministry revolve around growing numbers of participants, successful programs or other easily measured outcomes? Or do we tell stories about particular people who are responding to Jesus, stories of seeds of gospel truth sown in people’s hearts that will grow into the fruit of Christlikeness?”
In other words, are we “more oriented toward attracting a crowd or making apprentices of Jesus?”
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to grow or reach more people; it’s about what you celebrate and where you focus your energy. Unhurriedness is not laziness. “I didn’t write this book so that more people will live a life of leisure. That’s not at all the kind of unhurry I’ve had in mind. Instead, I am hungry to be part of a community of men and women who are living more fully and deeply in unhurried communion with Jesus, who are walking with him, serving him and working with him.”
The more unhurried you are, the more effective you will be at what is actually important. “Being unhurried does not at all mean being unresponsive to divine nudges. Being unhurried enables us to notice those nudges and to respond.”
The greatest commands God gave us are to love Him deeply and to love each other sacrificially. We can’t do either effectively without being present with God and present with people. “Living each moment in the light of eternity enables us to remain unhurried and engaged in the work God has for us in the present moment.”
This lifestyle allows for a healthy seasonal rhythm of work and rest. “We tend to see rest as the place we fall into after we’ve worn ourselves out with work. But what if our best work begins from a place of rest?”
Hurry often comes from when we mistakenly “establish our identity through our work rather than realizing that our identity is shaped and strengthened in the place of Sabbath rest and then expressed in our work.”
In other words we “only feel valuable when we are checking something off our to-do list. We therefore struggle to enter into the gift of rest as a good in itself.”
An unhurried person begins to see interruptions as opportunities instead of obstacles. Henri Nouwen said, “My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered the interruptions were my work.”
I, too, find myself struggling with what Fadling admits to here, “When I’m obsessed with efficiency, love feels like it gets in the way of my reaching that goal.” BUT LOVE IS THE GOAL! Am I slowing down enough to actually see the people God has placed in my life to love? Falding said, “Hurry glances. Love gazes.”
Jesus also modeled regular unhurried prayer. He often withdrew to lonely places to pray early in the morning and late at night. “Perhaps Jesus realized that he needed the soul-rest that comes in communion with his Father even more than he needed physical rest in sleep.” We must learn to unplug long enough for God to speak to us. “A person who is always available is not worth enough when they are available.”
I personally need to get serious about regularly praying for the people in my life and ministry. “One of the single most fruitful activities in which a leader can engage is praying—praying for the people God has entrusted to our care.”
As leaders, we must be patient with people we are helping grow, and we must be patient with ourselves as we seek to grow. “An unhurried vision of growth and maturity brings freedom and encouragement because we have a whole lifetime to grow.”
But we must realize that “Christian maturity is not a matter of doing more for God; it is God doing more in and through us. Immaturity is noisy with anxiety-fueled self-importance. Maturity is quietly content to pursue a life of obedient humility.”
Hurry operates from a mentality of scarcity; unhurry operates from an eternal perspective of abundance. “Every time I say the words “I don’t have time,” I am strengthening the hold that hurry has on me. The reality is that all of us on this planet have the same amount of time day by day, and, in Christ, we have all of eternity.” The truth is that “I have all the time I need for whatever God is giving me to do or inviting me into.”
It would help us to ask ourselves, “How would our pace of life be affected if we fully realized that, as followers of Christ, we are living eternal life now? Since eternal life isn’t just a dim future promise but a vital present reality.”
An eternal perspective is an unhurried perspective. “Eternal life is not so much a matter of mere duration or a guarantee of a pleasant future. Eternal life is an ongoing relationship of mutual love with the One who is Life… Eternal life is unhurried life in relationship with our loving heavenly Father, and my present physical life offers only a glimpse of that forever life.”
Hurry up and get this book so you don’t waste any more time hurrying!
Quotes in the order they appear listed by kindle number.1 101, 2 2491, 3 175, 4 362, 5 359, 6 2608, 7 495, 8 549, 9 1514, 10 1583, 11 671, 12 1159, 13 1209, 14 1108, 15 1326, 16 2393, 17 1463 18 2215, 19 2283, 20 2220, 21 2476, 22 2477, 23 205, 24 2495, 2528
In Indiana Jones The Temple of Doom there is a scene where “Indy” is eating with the natives and they have a dish called snake surprise. It was live snakes that they were supposed to eat. Numbers has it’s own version of a snake surprise.
The book of Numbers, perhaps more than any other book in the Bible, highlights the judgment of God and the severity of his wrath. Over and over the people of Israel rebel and then God exacts his righteous judgment.
Specifically in Number 21 the people started becoming impatient from the long jaunt though the wilderness. They were tired of manna and tired of waiting to enter the promise land. They didn’t appreciate God’s provision for them and didn’t trust in his plan even though they were very close to where they would enter the promised land. Their complaining was showing a heart that didn’t trust God. Whenever we chose to complain we are basically saying to God, “what you have provided for me isn’t enough.”
In response to their complaints God sent a slew of snakes to ravage the whining wimps. Moses prayed for the people asking for his mercy. God used this situation as a way to illustrate how Jesus would save those who look upon him in faith from the penalty of our sin. God instructed Moses to make a replica of the snake and place it on a pole and those who look upon it would be healed.
Jesus uses this story as an illustration of how he saves us from our sin. “And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life” John 3:14-15
Just as those who complained and were bitten as a result of their sin were healed by looking upon the bronze snake, so those who admit their sin and look upon what Jesus did upon the cross will be forgiven of their sin and will be given eternal life.
Even back in the Old Testament people were justified by their faith and not by the righteous things they did. This story reminds me to trust God even when I am in the wilderness and not complain if he is not meeting my needs in the way that I prefer. It also reminds me that looking to him is the only way I can experience healing from the results of my sin.
Everyone wants to be happy, but where does happiness come from?
This thoughtful documentary explores human happiness and what contributes to it. The pursuit of happiness is not a shallow pursuit but a pursuit of living the way God has designed us to live. Actually, as the documentary states,
“Happiness can help you reach your other goals.”
I enjoyed learning about what these non-Christian researchers found about what makes people happy. God has designed the world to work in a way that when we are connected to him and with others, we are living the life for which we are intended.
Of course, since the documentary is not made from a Christian perspective, the dots are not connected between what God tells us in the Bible and the research. But it was easy for me to see the connections. Here are 6 principles from “Happy.”
1. Happiness is not primarily about circumstances.
According to the documentary, factors that contribute to our happiness are as follows:
50% of your happiness is based on your genetic makeup.
40% can be developed through intentional activity.
10% is based on your external circumstances you may or may not be able to control.
So many people complain about the 10% they can’t control instead of working on the 40% that they can. The Apostle Paul also teaches that contentment and happiness are not based on circumstances. Instead we can trust Jesus to give us strength to be content and experience joy no matter what.
Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11–13
It doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are, you can be happy either way. The documentary shows examples of people who work hard under tough conditions and live simple lifestyles but experience happiness.
People over-estimate how good or bad things will affect them. In general, people do really well when things go really bad. People often bounce back from extreme tragedy if they have the right mentality and set of tools to cope. In the same way, extremely happy experiences do not last.
2. The experience of “Flow” is connected to happiness.
The reason many types of physical exercise and activity are pleasurable is because they help us experience “flow.” Flow is the feeling that you are doing something that you enjoy and it comes natural to you. It causes you to forget about yourself and other problems in your life. An example for me is surfing. When I am surfing in the right conditions, I can experience an extreme high because I have that “in the zone” experience many athletes have. I am engaged in an activity that I can succeed at.
People who experience flow on a regular basis live happier lives. These experiences release dopamine (the neurotransmitter that produces happiness) and keep our happy juices flowing.
3. Money won’t buy you happiness.
Many people say this, but few actually believe it. Money does help us be happier by getting us to a point where our needs are being met. But once our basic needs are met, then there is not much of a difference in the happiness between the super rich and the middle class. As the documentary puts it:
“Once basic needs are met, more money does not equal more happiness.”
Whatever amount of money you have, you will always adapt to it and then desire more. This endless desire to acquire shows us that money will never fully satisfy us.
Our culture teaches us to chase what are called “extrinsic goals.” These are things like money, image, and status. Studies have shown that the people who chase after these things end up more depressed. Even those who succeed at the game eventually will lose.
On the other hand, true happiness is found in pursuing “intrinsic goals” like personal growth, relationships, and the desire to help others. Studies have shown that people who pursue these things are more happy.
These intrinsic goals are exactly what the church provides people. We get a relationship with God and others. We get the ultimate personal growth opportunity and we have a mission that is far bigger than ourselves. Christians should be some of the happiest people out there!
4. Happiness is found in loving community.
Over and over in the documentary we see that happiness can NOT be achieved in isolation. Loving community has proven to be the greatest contributor to human happiness because we are made for community.
In the documentary, several countries were highlighted. Japan is a very modernized society but values hard work over family. In the film, we saw the devastating effects of how tireless work causes some people to die of over-working! They even have a name for it, Karoshi, which means working to death.
On the other hand, places like Denmark prioritize community. They have more people living in communities where they share meals and live together than any modern country. Sometimes 20 families live in the same complex! They sacrifice living space for a life full of community.
This type of communal living and sharing reminds me of the early church in Acts 2, which was described as a contagiously joyful community.
5. Happiness comes from serving others.
Happiness is experienced when we give our lives away. God designed us to live lives of service for others. Compassion leads to happiness.
In the film, they interviewed a German man who sacrificed his successful business career to work in Calcutta in “The Home for the Dying” that Mother Theresa founded. This man experienced happiness through helping others.
We learn that there is more to life than just taking care of yourself. When we show people that we care and take the burden away from others, we get a sense of happiness in return.
If you only seek your own happiness, it’s a selfish thing. But when you care about things bigger than yourself, you will experience the joy of a well-lived life.
6. Thankfulness and focusing on love leads to happiness.
One section of the documentary that is clearly contrary to Christianity is about Eastern meditation. Even though the application is different, Christians are told to set our minds on God and his love. We are told to meditate on God’s word. Paul told us in Phil 4:8:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
When we focus on God and the good gifts he provides us, we will have a better life. This does not mean that we ignore the negative things of life. We should see them the way God sees them, as effects of sin and as temporary. As followers of Jesus, we can look forward to heaven where there will be no more suffering or death.
Developing an attitude of gratitude will lead to a happier life.
I believe that Roko Belic has tapped into some deep keys to human happiness in this documentary. My prayer is that I would apply these principles in a Biblical way and lead my family and those in my ministry to experience happier and more purposeful lives for God’s glory.
“Jesus Continued… Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than Jesus Beside You” by JD Greear is the best book I have read on the Holy Spirit.
Greear’s work is helpful for any Christian, from Baptists to Pentecostals to “Bapti-costals”. We all can agree the Holy Spirit plays a vital role in our relationship with God and the mission of the Church. This book made me very grateful for the Holy Spirit’s work in my life and gave me a desire to experience more of his presence through prayer and listening for His guidance. The main point of the book is that having the Spirit inside of us is even better than if Jesus was standing right beside us!
“The Spirit’s presence inside them, he said, would be better than himself beside them (167).”
Here are 12 ways Greear highlights how the Spirit works in or lives and our churches.
1. The Spirit and the gospel always work together.
“Where the gospel is not cherished, the Spirit will not be experienced. And, on the flip side, where the Spirit is not sought, there will be no deep, experiential knowledge of the gospel (327).”
2. God’s Spirit works in conjunction with God’s Word.
“The Word issues the command and establishes the foundations; the Spirit quickens and makes alive… The Word is eternal and unchanging. The Spirit’s direction is temporary and varied… The Spirit makes God’s Word personal to us… We aren’t told to seek the Spirit apart from the Word; we are to seek him in the Word (421, 424, 438, 539).”
3. The Spirit empowers Christians to prophesy today, but it never trumps scripture.
“Scripture is infallible; contemporary believers speaking prophetically are not… But evidently, when he speaks through his church in the gift of prophecy, he does not guarantee that we will get all his movements, impressions, and instructions exactly right. We must “test” what is being said (2385, 2391).” “Never claim the authority of God on your words, even if you feel convinced the Holy Spirit might be speaking through you… Words of prophecy should always be given with a lot of humility… Because, you see, when you claim the authority of God, you put the other person in a terrible position; he must either fully heed your word or feel like he is rebelling against God. Or think you’re a quack. (2463, 2467, 2468).” “Prophetic speech is strongest when tied to actual Scripture… When you pass Scripture on to others, you can be sure that what you are saying is from God, even if your timing and application are not (2470, 2473).”
4. We don’t serve as a way to work for Jesus, by the Spirit’s power we to work WITH Jesus!
“It’s not that we’re doing this for God so much as we’re doing it with him. He is working through us. And it sometimes feels like we’re just along for the ride (485).” “The weight of responsibility for the mission does not rest on our shoulders, but on Jesus’ shoulders. He leads; we follow. He commands; we obey. He supplies; we steward. He delivers; we worship… God can do more through one simple act of obedience than we can do through our most extravagant plans. (1337, 1361).” “Engaging in the mission of God is not just about asking, “What would Jesus do?” but also, “What does Jesus want to do through me?… The question is no longer whether God wants us involved in his mission, only where and how? (1462, 1596)” “Blackaby shows that following God means “perceiving where God is at work and joining him in it.” Believers are not out working for God, he says, as much as God is working through them… Too many well-meaning Christian organizations today are attempting to work for God and then asking for his blessing, rather than seeking to work with the Holy Spirit, where the blessing is “pre-built-in (2941, 2953).” “A spiritual gift bestows an unusual effectiveness in a responsibility given to all believers… We discover our spiritual gifts as we actively pursue those responsibilities (2046, 2051).”
5. There is a mystery to how we receive guidance from the Holy Spirit.
“If we fail to acknowledge this mystery, we either reduce God’s working to a formula that will cause us to miss the Spirit’s genuine movement in our lives, or (and perhaps worse) we become over-confident in what we think he is saying to us, elevating our interpretation of his movements to a level of authority we should only give to Scripture… Regarding the guidance of the Spirit, Scripture gives us a basic pattern, but not a detailed prescription; a general model, but not a precise formula (563, 656).”
6. The Holy Spirit fills and empowers those who are obeying what they have already received.
“So, seek the Spirit in the Word. His guidance functions something like steering a bicycle: It works only once you’re moving. The Spirit steers as you obey God’s commands. You start pedaling in obedience; he’ll start directing (703).
7. The Spirit empowers the Church to be a movement, not just a meeting place.
“Movements (by definition) move, and that means if you’re not moving, then you’re not really part of the movement. Where there is no movement, there is no Spirit (794).” “As we live on mission we get the privilege of experiencing the work of the Spirit in more tangible ways. A friend of mine likens Jesus to a spiritual cyclone: he never pulls you in without also, almost instantaneously, hurling you back out. The moment you are converted to Jesus, you are sent out into mission (886).”
8. The Spirit empowers all believers to share our faith.
“It’s true that God has given some believers the gift to be “evangelists” (Eph. 4:11). But a spiritual gift is really just a specialization in an assignment given to all Christians… I’ve heard evangelism defined as “two nervous people talking to each other.” But here’s the thing: Isn’t the message important enough for a little weirdness?(929, 963).”
9. A Spirit-filled church is a mission-focused church.
“Churches and Christians not devoted to this mission are not filled with the Spirit, no matter how vibrant their worship, how sanctified their imaginations, or how sacred their demeanor… There is no such thing as a Spirit-filled Christian who does not become a mouthpiece for Christ. (1006, 1016).” “The church is not a cruise ship… Let’s be aircraft carriers. Battleships fight their battles on or near the ship. But the last place an aircraft carrier wants to fight its battles is near itself! Aircraft carriers equip planes to carry the battle to the enemy (3870).”
10. The Spirit shows us how to pray, inspires us to pray and works through our prayers.
“Prayers that start in heaven are heard by heaven. So we should look to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to inform and guide us as we pray (2604).” “The one concern of the devil is to keep the saints from prayer. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray . . . Prayer turns ordinary mortals into men of power . . . It brings fire. It brings rain. It brings life. It brings God. There is no power like that of prevailing prayer. — Samuel Chadwick (3507).” “The outpouring of the Holy Spirit will come, he says, when we persist in asking… What if we aren’t experiencing God’s power in our communities, in our churches, or in our families — simply because we are not persistent in asking? (3566, 3588).” “Don’t miss the order: they prayed; the Spirit shook them; then they shook the world (3607).” “He walked the pastor down to the church’s basement, where he showed him three hundred people on their faces praying as the service went on upstairs (3684).”
11. The Spirit empowers revival.
“Tim Keller says a revival is “the intensification of the normal operations of the Holy Spirit (conviction of sin, regeneration and sanctification, assurance of salvation) through the ordinary means of grace (preaching the Word, prayer, etc.)… Revival is the intensification of the normal operations of the Holy Spirit (3333, 3408).”
12. The Spirit only fills the humble.
“Unconfessed, secret, or willful sin deeply grieves the Holy Spirit of God, and where it is cherished, the Spirit will not be present. Nothing quenches the fire of the Holy Spirit faster than unconfessed sin (3434).” “You can never know that Jesus is all that you need, you see, until he’s all that you have… Don’t waste your white space. Not much may occur in the white space that seems worth writing down in a book, but a lot is being written into you. (3136, 3175).” “God’s power comes as a gift only to the empty-spirited. He blesses the poor in spirit because their empty spirits make good vessels for his own… Here’s the bottom line: You will never be full of the Spirit so long as you are full of yourself (3751, 3753).” “Dependence, not strength, is God’s objective for you. And if dependence is the objective, then weakness is an advantage (3799).” “Remember, he didn’t call you because he needed you. He called you because he loves you, he wants you to know his wonder and be amazed by his glory, and he wants to show off his power in you (3830).”
(The numbers by the quotes are the kindle location numbers.)
Every leader going into Christian ministry should read this book!
Unlike many “Christian” leadership books Spiritual Leadership actually get’s it’s content directly from God’s Word. J Oswald Sanders is a master at hitting on the topics that Christian leaders most commonly face. He brings scriptural principles to life with practical illustrations and hard hitting truths. Some of the points he highlighted are…
Leadership is an Honorable Ambition
Sanders assures us that Christian leadership is an honorable ambition as long as we are not doing it for ourselves.
“Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.” Jer 45:5
Selfishness has no place in the life of a Spiritual leader. We are called to serve.
Leadership Requires Character
Sanders helps leaders look at the Biblical qualifications of leadership. Through out the book, Sanders reminds us that character and servanthood are the bedrock on which the leader must base his ministry. There is a reason leaders in the Bible are most commonly called servants.
Leadership is Influence
The leader must exhibit natural and spiritual leadership. “The best test of whether one is qualified to lead, is to find out whether anyone is following.” (DE Hoste) You are not a shepherd if you don’t have any sheep!
Prayer is the work of the ministry. A spiritual leader must set the example of prayer to his people. If he is not much in prayer he probably won’t be much of a leader. Sanders writes “The spiritual leader should outpace the rest of the church, above all in prayer (83).”
Leaders are Readers
Sanders shares a powerful chapter on the importance of keeping the mind sharp through reading. He writes, “If a man is known by the company he keeps, so also his character is reflected in the books he reads (104).”
Leadership is Costly
Leaders must be willing “to pay a price higher than others are willing to pay” (115). Spiritual leadership is not for the faint of heart! It is a perilous occupation. As leaders we face self-sacrifice, criticism, rejection, pressure, loneliness, and fatigue. He writes, “The world is run by tired men.” It is hard but it is worth it!
Leaders Make More Leaders
“The ultimate test of a person’s leadership is the health of the organization when the organizer is gone (143).” Leaders who are worth their salt will replace themselves. Raising up more leaders and delegating is the mark of a great leader.
There is no reward for doing more than your share of the work! Sanders quotes DL Moody in saying, “he would rather put a thousand men to work that do the work of a thousand men” (137). You are not leading if you are doing everything yourself.
Do yourself and your church a favor and devour this classic book! The kingdom of God will be better for it!
JD Greear’s book “Gospel: Recovering The Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary” is a powerful call for Christians to experience the reality of the gospel.
“Being able to articulate the gospel with accuracy is one thing; having its truth captivate your soul is quite another” (9). Greear’s desire is to awaken people to the wonder and freedom of the good news. “The gospel… is not just the diving board off of which we jump into the pool of Christianity; it is the pool itself” (21).
If you notice, this why the writers of the New Testament never get tired of reminding their audience of the good news. “Growth in Christ is never going beyond the gospel, but going deeper into the gospel” (21). The majority of the book is organized around what he calls “The Gospel Prayer.”
“In Christ, there is nothing I can do that would make you love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less.”
Many people replace the centrality of the gospel in their lives with religion. Religion as it is defined here is basically an attempt to earn favor with God based on our own efforts.“What religion is unable to do, God does for us in the gospel (39).”
Satan loves to confuse us by telling us we need to earn our standing with God. “Satan’s primary temptation strategy is to try and make us forget what God has said about us and to evaluate our standing before God by some other criteria” (50). God on the other hand, “motivates us from acceptance, not toward it” (54). In other words, our motivation for obedience is based on already being accepted by God, not because we have to somehow earn it!
“Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy.”
Greear gets personal by talking about the temptation we all have to have idols in our lives. “An idol is whatever takes the place of God in our lives” (70). You can tell what you have a tendency to idolize by answering these questions, “What one thing do you most hope is in your future? What is it that without it, life would hardly seem worth living? What is the one thing you most worry about losing?”
Every pursuit that is less than God’s will for us will end up disappointing us. “Astoundingly we often try to make God an accomplice in the pursuit of our idols” (75). Instead of using the things of the world to glorify God, we often use God to get the things of the world. Instead, we should be,“learning to be satisfied in Jesus. [This] will free you to enjoy everything else. Being fulfilled in Christ means that you no longer depend on other things for life and happiness” (84). Ironically, by pursuing things other than God we miss out on the happiness we are seeking.
“When we see the size and beauty of the God who speaks to us, the power of sin and idolatry over our hearts is broken” (97). Developing a realistically huge view of God helps us be satisfied in him. “[God] is so big that you literally cannot exaggerate Him” (92). The reason the temptations of the world are so strong is because our view of God is not compelling enough. “The reason many of us feel like we ‘can’t say no’ to temptations is that God does not have that kind of weight in our hearts” (98). When we see God and the gospel as we should, it“gives us freedom from both sin and religion” (99).
“As You have been to me, so I will be to others.”
The gospel radically affects how you treat others in your life, but first must receive the power of good news yourself. “The gospel not only tells us about the power of God; the message of the gospel is itself the power of God” (103).
Seeing ourselves as sinners in need of grace helps us to be aggressively grace-giving to others. “Ultimately I am responding to Jesus, not the person in front of me. The person wronging me may not deserve a response of grace, but the Jesus who bled and died for me does” (120).
The gospel changes the way we should view money. “Christians who worship God, not money, need much less from the world to be happy and secure. They can… live sufficiently and give extravagantly” (138). JD Greear assures us that it is okay to enjoy and save money, but it must not become point of your life. When we come face to face with the generosity of God, we are compelled to be generous with our resources.
The gospel can only change people’s lives if they hear it. We have a responsibility to be a part of sharing it with the billions who have never heard. “4.5 billion people are, by their own admission, non-Christian and therefore separated from God… at least 2.25 billion have little to no access to the gospel” (146). We all have a role to play. “Our prayer now should be that God guide us to our specific role. Whether we should be involved in the Great Commission is on longer the question” (149). How is God specifically leading you to be a part of this epic task?
“As I pray I’ll measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.”
Prayer is one of the great ways we experience the grace and power of God. “God’s help flows out reflexively to those who presume upon His grace and power” (166). We must have faith that God wants to unleash his saving grace in people’s lives. “There is no shortage in God’s willingness or ability to save. The shortage is in our unbelief that He is as compassionate and powerful as the gospel says He is” (170).
“The gospel reveals to us how willing God is to save. We should ask accordingly” (174). This does not mean that God will answer exactly how we want him to. Sometimes God doesn’t answer us because he has a better plan. “We don’t measure God’s compassion by whether He answers our request like we think He should. We measure God’s compassion by the gospel” (184). We can trust that God knows best. “God sometimes answers our prayers by giving us what we would have asked for had we known what He knows” (187).
If the gospel is our motivation and focus when why do we have so many commands?
Obeying God’s commands and participating in spiritual disciplines serve as reminders of God’s love. “Jerry Bridges sums it up well, God’s love provides us with the motivation for obedience, while God’s laws provide the direction for the biblical expression of love (193).” Greear says that obedience to the commandments allows us to limit sin’s damage on our lives.. “Spiritual disciples only turn into legalism if you don’t really get the gospel” (201).
What is the gospel-centered approach to needs in the world?
“Gospel-centered people offer themselves to God, joyfully, and then do whatever He directs them to do, knowing that only what He empowers them to do will do any real good” (215). We are not called to save the world by ourselves; Jesus already did that! We are supposed to play our specific role based on where God has placed us, by using the resources, time skills, and church family God has given us.
What does a gospel-centered church look like?
A gospel-centered church makes preaching the good news an absolute priority, even over practical application. “The gospel is not good advice about how to live; it is good news about what God has done” (222).
“Nothing we are to do for God is as important as what He has done for us” (223). There are many of examples of churches that emphasize things other than the gospel and they all end up getting distracted. “Nothing, no matter who good or urgent, can keep us from pursuing our primary objective; preaching the gospel” (236). Greear asks a powerful question that can help a church analyze their impact: “Do you think if our church ‘died’ that our community would weep that we were gone” (237)?
The more we mature as Christians, the more in awe of the gospel we become.“Gospel-centeredness is about saturating your heart in the good news of Jesus – letting it so remake your mind that you see everything about yourself and your life through its lens… Growth in Christ is not going beyond the gospel but deeper into it” (246). I pray that everyone reading this (myself included) would use this book to look long and hard at the revolutionary nature of the gospel and what it demands of us.